Saturday, April 20, 2013
From the shore all that can be seen in the darkness is the flicker of lanterns on the long, low boat. The river's waters are moon-warm, but things unseen move in the murk, rippling the surface and bumping against the ankles of waders. We retreat to the safety of land.
No one here knows how to swim. If a fisherman falls into the water away from the shore and can't be pulled out by his friends, he will drown. They fish anyway because it's far better to drown than it is to starve, but the river remains alien to them. They pole from bank to bank gingerly, afraid of disturbing what may lie in the depths, and will cut their nets loose, no matter how great the sacrifice, if they sense something weighing them down that they can't explain. In some years, after the floods have receded, carcasses are found in the low-lying fields, unrecognizable, neither man nor fish nor anything else that could be given a name. We leave the bodies to be picked by birds and steer our ploughs around the remains; small trees may rise over the bones but if so no one, not even children, will take advantage of the shade.
The boat pierces the water in silence. The boatman lifts his pole and the slender bow glides to rest on the sand.